"No one told me what I should do if a woman hugs me with teary eyes complaining about lack of food nor was I told how to push a small child, with a runny nose away, when all the kid wanted was someone to hold him in their arms and play with him as the other kids won't. Going around on rounds during COVID is a part of my job now but I wasn't even given the full PPE kit, so how am I supposed to save myself from such incidents as I mentioned above where social distancing might go for a toss?" said Sindhu Didi, a 42-year-old ASHA worker.
Sindhu Didi had joined hands with the government when there was a lack of manpower and the need to spread awareness was at its peak. She said, "I got a brief about my job content just 2 days before going on-field. As an ASHA worker, people trust us, and my family trusts the organisation to look after our hygiene and health during the COVID times. But after 2 months of service and roaming around in communities and different households, I've fought long with the deadly infection, but I fear now, as three of my colleagues have been infected already."
As the government bestowed the duty of spreading awareness and checking the households for patients, many ASHA workers complained that they have not been well-trained in sanitisation and hygiene protocols to follow during the pandemic. Most of them just cover their faces with a piece of cloth or their dupattas and wash their hands often. "But what's the guarantee of our safety? This is the only thought that holds me back every day in the morning when I get up from my bed to get dressed for work", continued Sindhu Didi.
The fear of not carrying out the necessary protocols or being infected while doing their job, is the main reason as per the many ASHA workers, behind the stress. Just like Sindhu Didi, many others are recruited at a short notice. When they are sent to different localities they are not even trained properly in communicating effectively. As Sindhu Didi mentioned an incident, it became clear how the women are struggling in communicating the right way, "On my first few days, I distinctly remember, the families and women didn't even want to listen to me. After all I had no uniform or an authority to make them do so. The families were exhausted with the struggle for food and water, why would they even want to listen to the 'stay home, stay safe' naara? All they needed was money and the means to buy something for their family. I couldn't even bring myself to tell them that things would be fine and it is important for them to keep themselves safe. I saw senior workers do their jobs efficiently and copied their ways on my following visits. I wish I'd have gotten the training those ladies had received. I'd be impactful in getting the message across and perhaps save a few more families from COVID."
"I know many people are going out now and most are trying to get back to their normal lives before COVID, but that's something that is worrying me even more. What if I touch an unsanitized door knob or go to the wrong household or someone sneezes besides me while walking in small, crowded bylanes of a village? No matter how much I try to be aware of the surroundings, there is always this fear of being infected. Moreover, I am not even trained to know what I should do if I or anyone from my family gets infected. I feel short of breath at times when I start thinking about these things, wondering, maybe I am already infected or weak and vulnerable to the virus. Who'd come to save me? Everyone would just say, 'after all she was an untrained person who had direct contact with thousands of people' and let’s just leave it at that…"